A Juno Beach Maple Leaf Flies with the Snowbirds!

| February 15, 2021

Image caption: This Canadian flag flew at the Juno Beach Centre between 13 and 15 December 2020. With the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, it flew during a practice on 10 February 2021 over Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Snowbird #1. Pictured here is the Snowbird 1 Pilot, Team Lead for the 2021 Team, Major Jean-François Dupont. It was -43 C when they took this photo! (Photographer: Captain Erik Temple).

Today is Flag Day in Canada. It was on February 15, 1965 that Canada adopted our Maple Leaf flag. In this photo the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, fly a Canadian flag that flew at the Juno Beach Centre last year. The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s only museum on the D-Day landing beaches and serves as our primary Second World War site of remembrance in Europe.

431 Squadron holds the Normandy 1944 Battle Honour. In the spring and summer of 1944, the unit supported the Allied landings in Normandy along with the remainder of Bomber Command. Based at Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Croft in North Yorkshire, the squadron flew Handley Page Halifax B.Mk.III heavy bombers at the time.

Between March 1943 and April 1945, 431 Squadron flew nearly 2,600 sorties (one combat mission by one aircraft) from three bases and dropped 14,000 tons of bombs from their Wellington, Halifax and, finally, Lancaster bombers. In the course of these operations, the unit lost 72 aircraft along with 490 aircrew killed (313), missing (54), captured (104), safe (18) or injured (1).

These aircrews braved an integrated air defence system that included night fighters, searchlights, radar, and anti-aircraft guns. Survival rates rose and fell over time, but 59 percent of all airmen who served with Bomber Command were killed (45 percent), wounded (6 percent), or captured (8 percent). “Yet the crews buckled on their chutes and set out with unshakeable resolution night after night”, Murray Peden, a Canadian pilot who served with a Royal Air Force bomber squadron, wrote. “They fell prey to the hazards of icing, lightning, storm and structural failure, and they perished amidst the bursting shells of the flak batteries. But by far the greater number died in desperately unequal combat under the overwhelming firepower of the tenacious German night fighter defenders.”

Of the over 17,000 Canadians who perished while serving in the RCAF during the Second World War, some 10,000 of these airmen were with Bomber Command.

Squadron Leader W.A. Bentley briefs crews of 431 and 434 Squadrons at Croft in October 1944. The smiles and relaxed faces required for the photography no doubt vanished as the crews received the details of the night raid to Essen (DND / PL 33941).

Thank you to the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, especially Public Affairs Officer Lieutenant Becky Major, Snowbird 1 Team Lead Major Jean-François Dupont (Quebec City, QC), and Flight Safety Officer Captain Erik Temple (Ottawa, ON) for accepting this flag as a gift to the squadron. We wish you all the best for a safe and successful 2021 Airshow Season.

Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at jbca@junobeach.org.

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